Title: Falling Angels
Author: Tracy Chevalier
Page Count: 324 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, Social Commentary
Tone: Evocative, Dramatic, Strong Sense of Place
In a novel of manners and social divisions set against the backdrop of turn-of-the-century England, two girls from different classes become friends, and their families’ lives become intertwined in the process.
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.
The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2016 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.
1. With which character did you empathize most? Do you think this was the author’s intent?
2. Did you find the characters believable? If so, what made them ring true?
3. How entrenched is the novel in London during the Edwardian era? Why was this time/place chosen?
4. What details of time period brought the story to life? Did you respond favorably to the degree of description?
5. Could this story have worked in a different time setting? A different place? Does it have something to say to contemporary audiences?
6. Gertrude describes Kitty this way: “a vein of discontent runs through her that disturbs everything around her…She thinks too much and prays too little.” Is this a fair representation? What was your reaction?
7. Is Kitty a bad mother? What about Gertrude’s indulgence?
8. What does Simon add to the story? Some criticism complains that his continued friendship with the girls and their families is the least believable. What do you think?
9. Is someone to blame for what happened? Who bears most responsibility, who shares it, or is it simply circumstance?
10. Which other characters made significant impressions either on the events of the story or on your experience of it? Explain.
11. The New York Times Book Review wrote, “This is Tracy Chevalier’s singular gift: through the particular perspectives of a few finely drawn characters, she is able to evoke entire landscapes…there are no stock characters here, none who are perfectly comfortable in the niche society has assigned them.” Would you agree that there are no stock characters? Was no one in the story comfortable in his/her role?
12. How might you describe the gender dynamics of the story? Were the men uniform in how they viewed and treated women? Were they challenged in these perceptions?
13. Was the title aptly chosen? In which passages are falling angels referenced or illustrated? Other angel imagery?
14. Chevalier has said, “I used to make all sorts of pronouncements [like] ‘Men and women [are] absolutely equal.’ Now…I understand how things aren’t equal.” What in this book supports this view? Do you agree?
15. What did you think of Caroline Black? Of how the suffrage movement was depicted?
16. The cemetery is a recurring symbol, a “site of beginnings as well as endings”. What are examples from the story that support its importance? What message is the author trying to convey?
17. Which events would you consider most significant to the characters? Did these seem important as you read them?
18. What is gained by having multiple narrators? Were there narrators you enjoyed more than others? Would you personally have preferred the story told by one person?
19. Chevalier has earned a reputation as a novelist who expertly articulates the way women negotiate the demands of society. Is this true in Falling Angels?
20. Did you enjoy the author’s style?
21. People characterized the book as “a thoughtful exploration of the ways people misread each other by being trapped in their own perspectives.” Would you agree? Would you have described it with a different theme?
22. How did you feel at the end of the book?
23. What do you think happened to the characters after the book ended?
24. Was this book what you expected?
Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!
BookPage feature on release of Falling Angels
IndieBound interview with author Tracy Chevalier
The New York Times review of Falling Angels
Background, review, and questions from Reading Group Guides
The Independent‘s “General History of Women’s Suffrage in Britain”
BBC Radio4: Tracy Chevalier and Audrey Niffenegger tour Highgate Cemetery